Heads up, President Obama: a dead Osama bin Laden won't fill up voters' gas tanks, the Washington press warns. Though Obama got a significant boost in his approval ratings from the killing of the world's most wanted terrorist, the 2012 campaign is going to focus on the economy and jobs. Economists forecast that by next fall, the unemployment rate will still be around 8 percent, and no incumbant president since the Great Depression has been reelected with a jobless rate that high, The Hill's Ian Swanson and Sam Youngman report.
Bin Laden's killing will "neutralize" the Republican line that Democrats are foreign policy wimps, they write. Likewise, Politico's Alexander Burns says Obama has dodged the dreaded Jimmy Carter label. The raid in Pakistan makes it easier for Obama to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan this summer without suffering GOP attacks, The New York Times' John Harwood writes. All of these reporters warn that the economy could still sink him. Though Obama's overall approval rating shot up, voters still aren't happy with his handling of the slow recovery.
Although Obama is inoculated against foreign policy attacks, the Hill reports, "this only underscores the fact that 2012 will be all about the economy and jobs--and there, the president is deeply vulnerable." George H.W. Bush, after all, won the first Iraq war only to be defeated by Bill Clinton thanks to a recession. "[E]ven a strengthened president cannot compel ways to resolve deep substantive and political differences on taxes and spending," Harwood cautions. Burns explains that, "the president's numbers on the economy still place him in the danger zone." He quotes former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher, who argues, "Unless there's another international event that intervenes, this is a domestic election. It's an economic election. It's a gas prices election." Though the economy is slowly adding jobs, Burns writes, "With the country in a glum mood, Americans are unlikely to view that news in a glass-half-full way."
Slate's Dave Weigel is a little less cautious about Obama's chances. He notes that in Virginia, polls show that Republican candidates running against Obama "went from striking distance to McCain numbers, or worse," after the raid. Weigel contines, "The bin Laden bounce, by itself, won't last. Obama could used it as the start of a ballsier, less apologetic approach to everything, and the anecdotes in the poll suggest that'd work for him. ... And surely it's bad for Republicans that Obama was leading even before OBL was killed."